Chef Rafael De Trinidad of the Epicurean Staff is making the journey this summer to Nicaragua where he will work at his family’s foundation: Niños de Nicaragua, an orphanage that helps feed Central American children.

“Sometimes you think that a little bit doesn’t make a difference. But a little bit becomes big. It starts with one thing and then suddenly it keeps growing,” De Trinidad said.

After the youngest of De Trinidad’s 12 siblings passed away, his mother decided they would honor the deceased brother by creating the foundation. Now, the family works to help feed the children in the orphanage through private funding by their friends and family. De Trinidad finds motivation for his charity work while at Pinewood.

“I get my inspirations from the students here, especially the middle school. I see them just doing things and when they do these little fundraisers, that’s it. I just get motivated and inspired through them. I am very proud of being with Pinewood,” De Trinidad said.

When he was a child, De Trinidad did not like his sisters’ cooking, so he began making his own food. Soon after he discovered his passion.

“Most important for me [about cooking was that] I had a chance to talk to my mother after she found out I was real serious about it. When she was preparing meals, I had conversations with her. It was that one-on-one time that showed me that cooking is not just about food – it’s about establishing a relationship. To this day it sort of allows me to connect to the world,” De Trinidad said.

De Trinidad has translated this love into a lifelong career. In his opinion, he has never worked a day in his life because his job is his passion.

“I have had a wonderful career, and I still do. This is just a nice, comfortable, natural fit. The kids here are very respectful. I enjoy it. I am where I am supposed to be,” De Trinidad said.

Every week, the Epicurean staff takes all of the leftover food from the lunch program at Pinewood to shelters in Half Moon Bay and San Francisco. De Trinidad believes that being a true chef is going above and beyond in ways like his family’s foundation.

“I am happy with who I am, with what I do, and with the blessings I have received. [The foundation] is a way of giving back,” De Trinidad said.